Let’s take a look at the damage:
I’m sure that many of you have seen designer Rob Morris’s professional website: Digital Mash. It has been featured in countless blogs and articles because of it’s original, user-friendly, and exceptionally creative design. Check out Rob’s website, and then take a look at the copycat (I’ve purposely not linked to the copycat site – this person does not deserve web traffic for his actions):
And, here is the copycat:
Another victim this week was Jason Reed, a seriously talented designer with another extremely popular website. He also can be found in endless galleries featuring beautiful portfolio designs. His site is not only extremely well-designed and visually pleasing, but it is one of the most user-friendly sites I’ve ever visited. Jason found as many as ELEVEN copycats. Compare the real Jason Reed site to two of the worst copycat sites:
And, here are the copycats:
It’s disgusting. As designers, we are aware of the time and effort it takes to create websites like these. How could someone have the nerve to copy and paste another designer’s copy, images, code and ideas — and then try to pass themselves off as a designer?
As I write this, I’m sure Jason and Rob are working diligently to get these sites removed from the web. But, how many other designers are being ripped off?
How can I help?
If you spend enough time perusing the CSS and Flash galleries, you probably remember some of your favorite designs. If you spot a copycat, please contact the original designer! They have a right to know that they are being copied. It is important that we all work together to stop this type of behavior.
What are the laws?
I’m not going to pretend to be a copyright expert, but anything original that you write or create belongs to YOU. You don’t need a copyright symbol, or to pay anybody. It is yours and nobody else has a right to use it without permission. Here is an exceptionally easy to understand article on the laws of copyright as it applies to the web: What Every Webmaster Needs to Know About Copyright Law. Here is another resource on Website Copyright that includes links to Internet Cases, Take Down Notices, How to Protect your Website, and the current Copyright Laws. This article also does a good job of explaining the laws: 10 Big Myths about copyright explained. And, this is one of my favorites: an interview with a legal expert specializing in graphic design: Hey, You Stole My Website Design!
Here are some more helpful articles (accompanied by some great comments) to help you understand the laws and protect yourself:
- How to Handle a Rip-Off of Your Site’s Design
- How to React when your Work is Stolen
- Web Site Content Theft
- Stopping Code And Image Theft
- Remedies for Web Site Copyright Infringement
- How to hotlink protect your site and prevent leeching
- 10+ Ways To Protect Images From Being Stolen
And here are some more examples of serious rip-off artists:
- The Real Jim Shady (Robf Morris’s own post on his site copy-cats)
- Design Thieves (an awesome post by Shannon Farrell about the rip-off of Toby Powell’s site)
- Getting Inspiration Wrong: Website Rip offs
- Israeli Candidate Borrows a (Web) Page From Obama
- How can we stop the thieves?
- Relentless Copycat
- Caught Red Handed – Don’t Rip Off Websites!
There are also quite a few software packages out there claiming to protect sites from hackers, copycats, or thieves. I’ve never used any of them, so I don’t feel like I can recommend any of them, but if any Creative Opera readers have any advice, or can recommend any tested software, I’d greatly appreciate it! Please also feel free to share your stories, or any other links that might shed some light on this subject.
Here’s to originality!